L'ANSE - Even after harvesting their deer, area hunters have a chance to help the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community keep track of the entire local herd this fall.
The KBIC Natural Resources Department will be conducting its annual collection of deer heads for chronic wasting disease study this year.
CWD is caused by an infectious protein agent called a prion found in deer, elk and moose that causes chronic weight loss leading to death.
"Basically, we collect the lymph nodes and the obex, which is the base of the brainstem, and that has the mutated prion. Those are the two main places that it will show up," KBIC wildlife biologist Pam Nankervis said.
New this year, prizes will be drawn for lucky participants, with a deer blind, ladder stand, GPS unit, binoculars and snowshoes available. One ticket is given per head with a limit of two per participant.
The department is hoping to reach 100 heads collected. Two hundred have been tested over the past three years, with none testing positive.
A KBIC Natural Resource Department staff member can pick up heads from tribal members at their camp or residence (call 524-5757, ext. 18 for pick-up). Those who want to deliver the head themself can drop it off at Indian Country Sports in L'Anse, the KBIC Fish Hatchery in Pequaming, Pelkie Meat Processing in Alston and Karvakko's Meat Processing in Tapiola.
Heads can be dropped off after hours at Indian Country Sports and the Fish Hatchery, but participants should include their name, address and phone number so a prize ticket can be filled out for them.
The department prefers to get heads from areas relatively close to the reservation in Baraga and Houghton counties.
"It's basically just early detection so that if you find it you can isolate it within a smaller area," Nankervis said.
Because the mutated prion does not show up in fawns, donated heads should be of deer at least 1 1/2 years old.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.